Child Care: Make Sure It Is Safe

How can I help prevent problems?

Most people who provide child care are good people who really like children. But there are some who are unfit to care for children. Child abusers are most often family members, friends, and people you know, rather than strangers.

To help prevent problems and make sure that children are safe from child abuse:

  • Find out who will take care of your child.
  • Make surprise visits at different times of the day.
  • Make sure that the center is licensed by the state. (This does not always mean that it is safe.)
  • Check whether the home or center has had any complaints.
  • Always ask for references.
  • Talk with other parents whose children attend the center.
  • Make sure that all of the people who would take care of your child have gone through a background check.
  • Ask if all of the people who would take care of your child have been trained in how to spot and prevent child abuse.
  • Let all of the people who would take care of your child know that your child does not keep secrets from you.

What are the warning signs?

Watch for these signs that someone may abuse a child:

  • Refuses to give you the names and numbers of other parents who have children in the child care center.
  • Does not want surprise visits.
  • Yells or screams at children.
  • Grabs or jerks children.
  • Does not let a child speak.
  • Stands apart from the children and watches rather than talking or playing with them.
  • Does not relate well to adults and only wants to be with the children.
  • Shows no respect for children’s rights to privacy.
  • Hugs, touches, or holds a child who clearly does not want this type of contact.
  • Buys gifts or gives money to a child for no reason.

How should I prepare my child?

  • Start by talking about unwanted, confusing, or secret touches. Tell the child to tell you if anyone asks them to do anything that makes them feel “funny”, “yucky” or “icky inside”.
  • Let your child know that he or she can say “no” to anyone who touches your child in a way the child does not like.
  • Let your child know he or she should not keep secrets from you. Teach children to tell an adult if someone asks them to keep a secret.
  • Talk with your child when you pick them up about how their day went.

You may not always be able to spot problems before your child starts in child care. Pay attention to your child. Listen to what your child says about touching, secrets, or things that scare them. Notice if your child changes the way they act. Watch for these signs in your child:

  • Sudden dislike of or not wanting to go to child care.
  • Being very interested in sex, acting sexual, or drawing sexual pictures.
  • Suddenly not wanting to hug or be touched.
  • Sudden sleep problems such as nightmares, fear of the dark or fear of being alone.
  • Acting much younger than their age, such as wetting the bed, sucking their thumb, or being clingy.
  • Being nervous or being a bully.
  • Bruises, swollen areas, cuts, or other marks.

If you suspect a problem, call your local department of social or human services. You may ask that your name not be used.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2013-09-24
Last reviewed: 2013-09-23
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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